The EU and Sustainability

 

The EU and Sustainability

 

At the Prague European Summit I was invited to last week, sustainability was on the program three times. The most relevant session was Towards a More Sustainable and Prosperous European and Global Economy through Trade and Investments, pictured below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I asked Panelists like Sabine Weyand, Director General for Trade at the European Commission, to define Sustainability. She defined it as actions the EU is taking, including mutually reinforcing Twin Transitions (Green and Digital) to foster a carbon-neutral EU by 2050 and the three pillars of sustainability, namely:

  • 1st pillar is ‘climate and environment,
  • 2nd, a zero carbon economy (including biodiversity), and
  • 3rd, social sustainability (equity by member states and internationally).

These were followed by several panelists mentioning the issue of member countries needing to support and fund these. One would think that funding would be gratefully accepted and reciprocated given the astonishing €338bil the EU already spent across Europe, eight times the size of the Marshall Plan.

The panelists of these sessions sketched out ambitious plans. I researched this oft-promised “EU Green Deal” to understand its scale, if the sustainability of results (which I work on ex-post), the sustainability of our global ecology, and/or sustainability in terms of business functions resides, if at all. The results of this cursory research did not make these clear. But ambitions are massive. 

EU Green Deal

The European Green Deal began when the EU Parliament adopted the EU Climate Law in 2021, which makes “legally binding a target of reducing emissions 55% by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. This moves the EU closer to its post-2050 objective of negative emissions and confirms its leadership in the global fight against climate change.”

 

SIDENOTE1: Given that our lawsuit against the Czech Republic government for not meeting its Paris Agreement commitments just failed and the Ministry of the Environment successfully claimed that reducing emissions by only 26% was enough (rather than the EU’s target of 55%), I wonder how much of these ‘legally binding’ targets will actually be met…

 

Turning to what I could find of the 1st and 2nd pillars (as the 3rd was missing from Green Deal online documents which I found other than mentions of a ‘Just Transition’):

 

  1. AID FUNDING (SDGs)

The EU as a leading global partner for the funding the SDGs & Paris Agreement

The EU seems to be shifting from the SDGs which appear to be bilaterally funded, although ‘collectively’ claimed. “The EU and its Member States are the leading donors of official development assistance (ODA) globally. In 2022, they collectively provided €92.8 billion (based on preliminary OECD figures), which accounts for 43% of global assistance.” So what progress is that generating? Not much:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCE:https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2023/progress-chart/Progress-Chart-2023.pdf

 

SIDENOTE2: And since we’re talking about climate, can the EU or other donors aid-fund functioning weather stations? They have 5% of the number the US and EU do which massively limits mitigation: https://africanarguments.org/2023/11/without-warning-africa-lack-of-weather-stations-is-costing-lives/

 

  1. SUSTAINABLE FINANCE FOR CLIMATE, ENVIRONMENT, AND ECONOMY (the 1st 2 pillars of the mentioned Sustainability)

So, for the EU, where I now live most of the time, sustainable finance plans seem to be off to a good start. Nearly 2/3 of the promised €300 billion has been secured in only two years. Notably, this is 1/3 of the EU’s planned €1 Trillion, including private investments. Two German policy researchers, Findeisen and Mack, question their achievability. “Europe needs to spend an additional €350 billion on climate action every year until the end of this decade…to reach its 55% greenhouse gas reduction target by 2030.” Furthermore,shortcomings of [Investment Plan] InvestEU in combatting climate change can be addressed and why it is no substitute for fresh public spending at EU level.” (See the excellent brief including concerns about the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, outlined below. This overview of the EU’s Investment plan has broadly planned outputs (e.g., ambitions, financing, research, mobilizing), outcomes (e.g., energy generated, building new energy sources, restoring ecosystems, and building food systems and mobility), and impacts (e.g., a sustainable future):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52020DC0021&rid=7

 

Much of the plan is, understandably, European-focused, yet we all know that the Global South is where the deepest needs and opportunities lie. Drilling down further to see investments, activities, and even results on the ground was both interesting and harder:

The inaugural milestone of the Global Gateway was the Africa-Europe Investment Package with approximately €150 billion of investment dedicated to bolstering cooperation with African partners. We have also started implementing Global Gateway in Asia and the Pacific and in Latin America and the Caribbean, where President von der Leyen announced a global investment by the EU and its Member States of over €45 billion. In 2023, ninety key projects were launched worldwide across the digital, energy, and transport sectors through Global Gateway to strengthen health, education, and research systems globally.”

So, as an Africanist and evaluative researcher, I looked into the EU’s reported figures (and results). Under Global Gateway, the EU has funded 33 projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, 11 of which are climate-related and another 7 that are transport-related. There are only short descriptions of projects without substantive partners, activities, or data, such as a €1billion “Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience in Africa“. Details would be instructive, to say the least. Research on African Voices regarding their projects unearthed one that should already be of concern: Namibia’s $10 billion Green Hydrogen project, which is to help 2.5 million people decarbonize. However, the tendering is not transparent, locals are in the dark, there are biodiversity concerns, and initial funding is missing. Much more transparent monitoring & evaluation data is needed to know it is on track. 

 

I also consulted African Voices regarding COP28 that are relevant to the EU’s Africa investments.

  • Funds are needed. Lorraine Chiponda. a Coordinator of the Africa Movement Building Space notes that “Africa receives a meager 3% of the total global climate finance and African countries still play a marginal role in the global finance system, making it a mammoth task to obtain funds for renewable energy investment.”
  • Africa has much to offer. Joseph Nganga is Interim Managing Director at the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) reminds us that “Africa, a region with a developing economy endowed with abundant natural resources, stands at a crossroads where strategic financial investments can steer its trajectory towards a prosperous climate-resilient future.”
  • Moreover, financing needs are clearly expressed, which the EU, for one, should listen to. “This year at the African Climate Summit, countries were united in their call for a series of finance reforms that would have a meaningful impact on their fiscal and policy space to address climate change. These include a reduction in borrowing costs and risk premiums; debt management, restructuring and relief; scaling concessional climate finance from multilateral developments banks (MDBs); and reforms to the global tax regime.Olivia Rumble is a climate change legal and policy expert and a director of Climate Legal

 

Much more is needed for equitable partnerships to address our increasingly desperate climate needs. While I was at the conference, the Copernicus Climate Change Service issued a warning that “For the first time ever, the planet globally exceeded a key warming threshold on Friday for the first time since at least the beginning of instrument records, new data shows. Simply put, a 2-degree rise in global temperatures was considered as a target for the end of the century and is considered a critical threshold above which dangerous and cascading effects will occur.” COP28 has a lot to accomplish.

Helpful? Let me know in the comments…

 

 

Can development projects be sustainable? Reblog from www.evaluace.com…

Mongolia

Can development projects be sustainable?

(Reblog http://www.evaluace.com by Inka Pibilova and Marie Korner)

 

What remained of Mongolian kindergartens

In 2012, we have ventured with my colleague Marie Koerner through steppes of Mongolia to learn what remained of the Czech-funded mobile kindergartens. People remembered a great project, nomadic women teaching in mobile kindergartens, children learning playfully in a safe environment and integrating better to primary schools… and their parents having more time for work or smaller siblings. Well, not much remained of it 4 months after extended project end. Despite an official agreement, the Mongolian Ministry of Education did not provide a budget. It rather accepted a bigger donation from the Asian Development  Bank for a similar project. Well, the new one did not benefit that many children in so many remote areas, but kindergartens had better qualified teachers, free meals and heating. And the donor was happy. Still, something remained of the Czech project – the positive attitude of the community towards pre-primary education and dedication to involve children at least in summer prep-schools organized by the government. Read the full evaluation report here in the Czech language.

The sustainability stories are diverse, yet factors are often similar. The devil is in the detail – for example, a dedicated village chief can make a big difference.

Sustainability or commercial continuity?

Based on different evaluations of Czech development projects conducted in 2010 to 2013, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs started debating sustainability in 2013. Often, it was linked to commercial continuity – companies, ideally Czech, would continue to have business based on their previous successful engagement. Or at least income generation within the projects was highlighted. Questions arose if at least certain sectors, CSO or companies or types of projects are more sustainable than others, based on income generation or other factors.

What makes development projects sustainable?

Following the policy debate, the Czech platform of Civil Society Organisations – FoRS engaged Marie Koerner and me to analyse all evaluation reports, define what sustainability actually is and how it can be achieved. The key findings are below.

  1. Project sustainability is linked to continued benefits for intended beneficiariesafter donor funding has been withdrawn. Not all project activities need to continue. Not all benefits need to be seen as meaningful by the beneficiaries. Income generation is not always possible and does not necessarily contribute to poverty reduction. Especially if the income is generated by the Czech companies, not by the local actors, who are responsible for sustaining project benefits.
  2.  Sustainability of the Czech Development Cooperation projects varies. Review of 37 publicly available evaluation reports of Czech development projects shows no correlation between sustainability and specific sectors, contracting authorities, implementers or countries of implementation has not been detected. It is rather external and internal factors shown below which influence project sustainability.
  3. Sustainability factors are project specific and interdependent. They are external and internal. Often, even external factors can be influenced to achieve higher sustainability.
  4. Sustainability can be influenced throughout the project cycle. Each stakeholder plays a certain role at each phase of the project cycle.
  5. Good practice is available across sectors, including environment, agriculture, social development including education, economic development including energy as well as global development education and awareness raising. These sustainable Czech projects considered the key factors influencing sustainability in their plans and activities and thus contributed to lasting positive benefits for the recipients.

Overview of factors is displayed below:

Sustainability Factors

 

 

 

Sustainability Factors

 

 

 

 

Read the publication below, including different good practices. You can download ithere.

What next? What is your experience?

Based on the study, the Czech Development Agency together with FoRS organised an internal expert workshop on 13 March 2014 to debate possible steps for increasing the sustainability of Czech bilateral projects.

The results are yet to be seen. Feel free to share your resources and experience!

 

 

 

 

Czech it out! Great evaluation happening in the Czech Republic

Czech it out! Great evaluation happening in the Czech Republic

One of the delights of living in another country is the surprises one encounters. For me, coming back to our second 'home', it was an evaluative surprise. For by connecting to the Czech Foreign Ministry's Evaluation team, I found evidence of learning from meta-evaluation, doing ex-post evaluation, conscientious tracking of project cost-effectiveness and an openness to self-sustainability research funding and using national evaluators to lead them.

Czech Foreign aid is widespread- "Through development cooperation, the Czech Republic helps to eradicate poverty in less developed parts of the world by means of sustainable socio-economic development. It also contributes to global security and stability, conflict prevention, the promotion of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law". Development assistance is done by several entities, the main two under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ORS (Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid) and its subsidiary CRA (Czech Development Agency).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs oversees some fascinating evaluation work. After attending several partner-donor meetings and presentations of a meta-evaluation, an ex-post from an array of projects in Georgia and a discussion of findings across all evaluations in 2014, I am impressed. Why? Because not only are they willing to learn from both successes and failures, openly discussing challenges in learning between grants and contracts, but also because they are tackling programming in 10 countries (e.g. Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Georgia) with a mere 17 people and a budget of $35 million for 2015.  

 

What are some of the things they are learning?

1. They commissioned a meta-evaluation looking at 20 projects from 2012-2013. What worked well was well described and documented evaluations that were also cost-effective (evaluations were 4% of total costs) and tried to offer constructive solutions to things that did not work well in projects.  While some methodologies needed to be better, and reports were hard to access, a major finding was what needs to be improved is inclusion of local recipients in stakeholder analyses, soliciting their views on what the evaluations should focus and on how the projects affected them.  Further, during discussions we highlighted the need for an evaluation of outcomes and impacts, not just how evaluations quality was but also which organizations had the best results and why.

 

2. They commissioned an ex-post evaluation across eight organizations' in the Republic of Georgia (5 Czech, 3 Georgian), of one-year projects with 131 separate activities in civic engagement, media and youth between 2008-2012. The evaluation looked at the short-term effectiveness and longer-term sustainability of activities in the Republic of Georgia.  Key findings included good relevance of aid offered, high cost-efficiency, low effectiveness for Georgian decision-making, primarily individual (rather than systemic) sustainability, though some good impact.

Key recommendations from this evaluation-, which Valuing Voices thinks, are universal included:

LEARN BETTER TOGETHER
a. Implement min. 3-year projects, whereby focus in a selected region (or a few regions) on a selected local priority topic, ensure in-depth needs analysis, multi-stakeholder cooperation [including participants], sustainable mechanisms, ongoing local support and enough flexibility as per external factors.

b. Allocate budget for burning human rights issues and for enhancing planning, monitoring, evaluation and learning capacities of Civil Society Organizations.

and

SHARE FINDINGS MORE

c. Coordinate activities with other implementers and donors in the target area and if possible (taking into account the political situation) also with local state institutions and potential implementers 

d. Implement multi-stakeholder initiatives in a specific area (health, environment, social inclusion, minorities) with an advocacy component, sharing of results / lessons learnt and a media component 

3.  Among annual recommendations from Evaluation discussions throughout the year emerged this surprising one on cost-effectiveness. A detailed financial budget is now standard, and expenses for project activities among a majority of (grant-funded) projects and the Czech Development Agency are now required. This enables cost-effectiveness comparisons at least across grants (albeing not across for-profit contracts). In my experience this is unparalleled! (Let me know if other countries do this please!)

 

Overall, the fact that the Czech Foreign Ministry and implementing partners are willing to look at themselves critically and transparently improve accountability to its ultimate recipients and taxpayers makes me shout Hurrah from all of Prague’s 100 spires!  Here is one of them, taken from a Ministry’s window.IMG_9623